Message from the Northeast Region BSA regarding Scouting in Puerto Rico

As you probably are aware, Northeast Region Area 5 includes all of New Jersey, parts of Pennsylvania, Transatlantic Council, and Puerto Rico.   After a long period of silence due to lack of power, cellular and landline service, we have just recently received word how Puerto Rico Council BSA’s Office and Camp Guajataka fared due to Hurricane María.  In short, the news isn’t good.

First and foremost, Council Executive María Molinelli advises that the council staff and volunteers that she has been able to contact are all fine but they are dealing with a multitude of personal issues as you have all seen on the news.   In true Scouting fashion, María’s other business, a bakery, is making food for people in need on the island.

Now to the tough part, the council Scout office sustained major roof damage resulting in the loss of air conditioner units and water damage inside of the office.   Due to lack of electricity, lack of fuel for generators, and access issues, it will be a long time before significant repairs can be made to the office.   Camp Guajataka, which usually operates year-round, has taken a major hit from flooding and downed trees.  The camp has sustained major tree damage, so much so that they were only able to assess a small portion of the camp.  Clearing the tree damage alone will be a huge task for the council.  As of earlier this week, parts of camp were still underwater due to Lake Guajataca flooding its banks which include the camp (this the lake where the dam was breached, as reported in the news).  In the main part of camp, almost all of the buildings sustained at least minor damage, mostly due to trees falling into them.  All of the buildings were to some degree underwater after the storm so there will be water damage as well.  Camp has no electricity or water.  It would appear that all of the equipment stored in the campsites such as bunks and mattresses have been lost although they were unable to get into the sites.  It is safe to say that it will be many, many months before camp can be used for Scouting again.

Council Executive María Molinelli, who is coordinating efforts on the island, characteristically expressed the belief that, with time, effort and the support of all of us, Puerto Rico can and will come back stronger than ever with a vibrant and spirited Scouting community.   You should also know that Scout units on the island have already begun helping the community in general and we want to continue to support their ‘good turns’ as much as we can.

Many of you have asked how you can help with the efforts and frankly the biggest need they have right now is money.  When food, shelter, water, and survival are what you are worried about, local Scouting fundraising activities cease as there are other priorities that must be met.   We are pursuing many avenues of support for the Concilio de Puerto Rico Scouts with the National Office taking the lead on fundraising and other efforts.

We have attached a link to a site where donations can be made.  This site is for all of recent hurricane victims across the country, but you can designate contributions directly to Puerto Rico should you wish to do so.

That link is https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Simple/Donor.asp?ievent=1176377&en=bkKLJ0NHL8LLJ5PYJlLPI9NVJjJXJfNZLuJbE

So our ask is that you distribute this email far and wide to as many Scouters in your councils as you can and keep the people of Puerto Rico in your thoughts as they work towards normalcy and recovery.

Thank you in advance for your support.

 

Yours in Scouting,

Mark Barnard

Area 5 President

Jeffrey H. Goldsmith

Area 5 Commissioner

Jim Hans

Area 5 Director